by Deborah Sweeney | Featured Contributor
Content marketing is wildly effective. 93% of marketers report using inbound marketing, with blogging listed as a top priority. This widespread adoption of content marketing is wonderful, and I’ve spent the last few years advising small business owners to blog. But, interestingly, some of the biggest concerns they have with starting a blog are legal. They just don’t know what sort of content they are allowed to post, or if they’ll somehow get in trouble. If you are hesitant to start blogging for that reason, just keep the following tips in mind.
1. Set your rules early on
Content marketers have to move fast – if every article you produce has to be proofed by a legal team, you’ll never be able to churn out articles fast enough. Before you begin to outline a content marketing strategy, decide what you, or your writers, can and cannot write about. There really aren’t many taboo subjects for most companies, but certain industries and professions strictly regulate what its members do and say – for example, doctors can’t give medical advice or diagnose conditions online. If your profession or business is regulated by an outside agency, be sure to check in with them and see if they already have a set of rules you can adopt. Otherwise, just avoid subjects you aren’t comfortable discussing, and if you really want to be safe, have an attorney look your rules over.
2. Track author and image rights
Never, ever publish anything without the permission of the original author. It doesn’t matter if there isn’t a copyright symbol or notice attached to it – copyright is automatically granted on the creation of a creative work. And when you do have permission, make sure you can prove it. At the very least, send a blanket policy to all of your contributors, outlining how you’ll use the post, what the author’s rights to the post are, and any limitations to use. If you’d like to go even further, you can ask them to sign this policy, or affirm that they’ve read it in some way.
3. Don’t write anything you wouldn’t say
This is really the golden rule of marketing anyway. Most small business owners are wise enough to avoid using marketing as a way to continue a fight. Still, I have seen some otherwise levelheaded people use their blog and content to take jabs at competitors. That’s a good way to find yourself in court. Your content is going to be seen by a lot of people, so just avoid being petty, and focus on your own business.
4. Disclose sponsored posts
Back in 2013, the FTC actually updated its policies on disclosure in online content. There was a growing problem of people hiding the fact that a post or ad was sponsored, and many felt that this practice was deceptive. So the onus is on you, as the publisher, to disclose when content is sponsored. This disclosure has to be near the content, visible, and written using clear language. And it’ll need to be included whenever there is compensation – if you receive money, products, or services because you published a post, you’ll need to disclose that fact.
Businesses shouldn’t have a problem adopting any of these tips as most of them border on common sense. Still, it’s a good idea to review your content marketing and make sure everything is above board. Smaller businesses don’t normally spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the legality of their blog posts, but it is a good idea to cover your bases and implement good practices, just to help protect yourself. The last thing you want is to lose any sleep over a blog post.
Deborah Sweeney – Legal Expert, CEO, MyCorporation.com – Calabasas, CA
As CEO of MyCorporation Business Services, Inc. (MyCorporation.com), Deborah Sweeney is an advocate for protecting personal and business assets for business owners and entrepreneurs. With her experience in the fields of corporate and intellectual property law, Deborah has evolved from lawyer to business owner. She has extensive experience in the start-up and entrepreneurial industry as she has been involved in the formation of hundreds of thousands of businesses for MyCorporation.com’s customers.
Ms. Sweeney received her JD & MBA degrees from Pepperdine University. She is active in the community and loves working with students and aspiring entrepreneurs. She serves on the Board of Regents at California Lutheran University and is a founding member of Partners of Pepperdine. Deborah has served as an adjunct professor at the University of West Los Angeles and San Fernando School of Law in the areas of corporate and intellectual property law. Ms. Sweeney is also well-recognized for her written work online as a contributing writer with top business and entrepreneurial blogging sites. She is a regular contributor on Forbes, American Express, Social Media Today, and BlogHer among many others.
In her ‘free’ time, Deborah enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons, Benjamin (8) and Christopher (6). Deborah believes in the importance of family and credits the entrepreneurial business model for giving her the flexibility to enjoy both a career and motherhood. Follow her on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation.